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Neuroimage. 2008 Sep 1;42(3):1226-36. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.05.029. Epub 2008 May 28.

Inter-subject variability in the use of two different neuronal networks for reading aloud familiar words.

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  • 1Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, UCL, London, UK.


Cognitive models of reading predict that high frequency regular words can be read in more than one way. We investigated this hypothesis using functional MRI and covariance analysis in 43 healthy skilled readers. Our results dissociated two sets of regions that were differentially engaged across subjects who were reading the same familiar words. Some subjects showed more activation in left inferior frontal and anterior occipito-temporal regions while other subjects showed more activation in right inferior parietal and left posterior occipito-temporal regions. To explore the behavioural correlates of these systems, we measured the difference between reading speed for irregularly spelled words relative to pseudowords outside the scanner in fifteen of our subjects and correlated this measure with fMRI activation for reading familiar words. The faster the lexical reading the greater the activation in left posterior occipito-temporal and right inferior parietal regions. Conversely, the slower the lexical reading the greater the activation in left anterior occipito-temporal and left ventral inferior frontal regions. Thus, the double dissociation in irregular and pseudoword reading behaviour predicted the double dissociation in neuronal activation for reading familiar words. We discuss the implications of these results which may be important for understanding how reading is learnt in childhood or re-learnt following brain damage in adulthood.

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